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Friday, October 19, 2012

{Food for Thought Friday} Type 3 Diabetes and California’s Prop 37

It’s Friday. Time to party, right? Nope. Time to think and think hard, people! 😉 I feel like by the end of the week, I often have heard and read lots of “stuff” that really gets me thinking. So, I’m going to process my thoughts with you, share what I’ve learned, get your thoughts, see where it gets us. Thinking is good, even on Friday.

So, for our first Food for Thought Friday post, I’m dropping two big bombs. Get ready.

Alzheimer’s is probably the “new” diabetes
As if two kinds of diabetes weren’t enough, several studies are indicating that Alzheimer’s could be considered Type 3 diabetes. Mark Bittman wrote a great piece on this subject on the New York Times recently that is worth a read.  No, really, go read it.

I love dessert. Nate often teases that I should rename my blog This Week for Dessert. In all seriousness, though, it’s becoming increasingly clear just how bad sugar is for our bodies. One study after another indicates the great amount of havoc that sugar wreaks on our systems. I still stand by the adage “everything in moderation.” But, I must also admit, my sugar intake is not always moderate (and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one). How many times have I looked at people with Alzheimer’s and thought, “Oh, I hope that never happens to me.” Genetic predisposition plays a role, but it’s looking like what we eat plays a much bigger role in whether or not our brains go to pot. Which stinks, because I really love dessert. And french fries, for that matter. But I also really want to be lucid until the day I die. If I can affect whether or not that happens, I should seriously consider what I’m putting in my mouth every day.

California’s Prop 37 and why it affects all of us
If you live in California, you most certainly have heard of Prop 37. If you don’t live in California, let me give you a quick rundown.

First off, as we all know, California is kind of a crazy place and here is just one more example. We have this initiative process where laws are proposed and get voted on by the people directly. The California constitution is probably 3,000,000 pages long because of all these propositions that get passed. I actually kind of hate the whole process because, well, I’m not an expert on any of this stuff and neither are most people. I think people in general tend to vote on many of these issues in an emotional way, which may not be the best way to, say, make budgetary decisions for a state in astronomical debt. But this is the system and it’s what we have to work with. You can read more about California’s ballot initiative process here if you like.

Proposition 37 is one of these such initiatives that will be on the ballot in California this November. In sum, Prop 37 mandates labeling of genetically-modified food. And, if it is passed in California, it will impact the rest of the country somehow, somewhere. You know, setting wheels in motion and all of that.

As with all propositions, I approach it skeptically. Especially after learning how poorly it is written, including so many exceptions to render the labeling almost meaningless. In addition, while I feel very strongly about the various impacts the industrialized food system has on our health and the health of the earth, I don’t think we can say that GM foods are all bad and evil, and mandating a label implies as much. (P.S. I reserve the right to change my mind as more information comes to light, of course!). I’m married to a scientist, a bioengineer at that. Nate and I believe in science and it’s ability to do a huge amount of good.

HOWEVER, genetically-modified crops are a mainstay of Big Food (i.e. the big, rich, powerful companies that drive the industrialized food system). They are fighting this proposition tooth and nail and they are the reason there hasn’t been labeling from the get-go. And, as flawed as the proposition may be, it just might be the first time we can take a real, meaningful stand against a broken food system.

I’m torn. This must be what a legislator in Washington feels like when a bill they believe in ends up with riders they don’t agree with but are necessary to get the bill passed. Politics are messy. I am sooooo glad I am not a politician. But, like it or not, voting on Prop 37 in a few short weeks gets me involved politically. And it puts the food system on the political map.

Michael Pollan wrote a piece about Prop 37 for (you guessed it) the New York Times last week. He puts it all down on paper far more eloquently than I have. Go read it. It is, at the very least, thought provoking.

I’m not telling you how I’m voting. Although, I have to say, I can’t imagine ever being on the same side as Monsanto. Much to ponder, here, my friends. Much to ponder.


  1. 1

    I’m so glad every time I see someone speaking up about this issue. I totally support prop 37 and so does 92% of the population – but we have to talk about it and make some noise so that we can be heard! It completely blows my mind that we are having to ask for right to know what’s in our food. Thanks for sharing, Jane!

  2. 2
    Jenny D.

    That article by Mark Bittman was great. About a year ago our family switched to an almost vegan way of eating, I say almost because my kids like to sprinkle cheese on their tacos for example and I certainly don’t label us as vegan. This was a big switch from eating lots of meat and dairy products and now that we are a year out, we love it and it works for us. As a result our consumption of processed foods and the added sugar in those foods has decreased greatly. Like you, I love to make desserts and I love baking. I don’t make desserts as much as I used to, but how do we use less sugar in the home? I don’t use Splenda ever, artificial sweeteners don’t seem right to me. I know there are other options out there that are more natural and better for us, but I am at a loss as to how to make the switch.

    We used to live in CA, I can’t say I miss the politics, but I do miss everything else!

    • Jane Maynard

      first off, jenny, very admirable on your switch to nearly vegan eating. I’m super impressed!

      honestly, I don’t think there’s any good substitute for sugar. agave nectar and the likes are still sugar, no matter what the marketing tells you. 😉 and I’m completely with you on the artificial sweeteners. I think it’s best to stick with the original, just not try to use it too much. that’s the tough part, right? 😉

      if we end up moving from california, I have to say, despite the silly propositions, we will miss this place terribly, too! it’s a pretty amazing place to live…

  3. 3
    Elisa clawson

    Thank you for helping call attention to this proposition. I also am in a quandary about it, I want to know what is in my food, but it is what is not required that really bothers me, why do we need to know about the meat in dog food, for example, but not about what is in the meat i serve my family? Much more thought and research is required for me.

    I also have been following the Alzheimer’s/diabetes news, my 10 year old nephew was diagnosed with type 1, a year ago, my mother, and many aunts and uncles, have type 2. This is not something we want to continue!

    • Jane Maynard

      so true, the exceptions in the proposition are ridiculous. why can’t it just be a well written law? it’s so frustrating.

      and, yes, we need to stop the diabetes!

      and so sorry to hear about your nephew – that is such a bummer. hugs for him!

  4. 4

    Jane, as you might remember (or not, ha – it’s been a while since I’ve commented!) my husband & I farm, though not in California. I just wanted to include a couple of blog posts that might be worth your while and that of your readers:

    You are so right about politics being messy and I, too, am glad I’m not the one who has to make those decisions about complex bills. But we do get to make the decision on how we will vote and consider not only how it will affect ourselves but our state, country and world at large.

    • Jane Maynard

      hi tessa, yes I remember you! and I’m glad you commented and I am definitely going to read the articles you linked to. (I’ve started reading them and they are great)

      one of the articles definitely addresses one of the concerns I have – the potential good that GM crops could have in Africa and other areas of the world that are desperate for food. if the prop passes, it will definitely have an impact on that industry…hmmmmm….see, my brain is spinning. it’s so tough!

      anyway, great links! thank you! and as always, I really appreciate your perspective!!

  5. 5

    Wow! After reading that article that is all I can say- wow. Coincidentally, my mom just told me my cousin has Alzheimer’s- she is 68. So my sister and I were just discussing the fear that now we have a “family history” now. That said, my cousins’ parents died at 80+ years and were just fine until the day they died, along with both sets of grandparents. Who knows what lies ahead for us, I just try to cook good food for my family, we rarely eat out (sadly- we live in new Orleans too!). And I limit my kids sugar like a crazy person- wish I took as good of care of myself.

    • Jane Maynard

      don’t we all wish we took as good of care of ourselves as we do our kids!?! 🙂

      I’m with you…nate was the one who sent me the bittman article and it is kind of mind-blowing…such interesting stuff and kind of scary too, but also empowering.

  6. 6

    I like it when you get all intellectual and issue-y.

  7. 7
    Jane Maynard

    I am still torn and I’m still not fessing up to how I’m going to vote, but I do like the discussion we have going. and michael pollan’s philosophical support of the prop is compelling to me.

    I want to post a little something a good friend of mine shared on facebook. ritchard engelhardt from bay bio ( wrote it on his facebook wall. he is not in favor of prop 37 and presents many compelling arguments against the prop, which I touched on a bit in the post. anyway, here is his summary. if anyone really wants the entire text (it’s LONG) email and I’ll send it to ya. 😉

    “So, let’s review. Prop. 37 will:
    Provide you with incomplete information regarding GMO’s due to its dozens of special interest exemptions.
    Cast a negative light on a native California industry with a stellar safety record and a host of life-saving innovations under its belt.
    Cost jobs for the above-mentioned industry and our struggling economy.
    Increase your cost for groceries so that your local trial lawyer can install that car elevator he’s been eyeing for his wife’s second Cadillac.
    Provide you with labels that will tell you just enough to make you suspect, but not nearly enough for you to make any informed judgments.”

  8. (Lifelong Californian here). I have not made up my mind about prop 37. Not because I disagree with labeling, but because, as you say, the bill is so poorly written and may serve to confuse more than help.
    That’s why we grow what we can in our garden, and purchase organic what we can’t. Being married to an environmental engineer who has researched these things quite a bit, I have realized how important it is to watch the things that go into our bodies. Thanks for bringing up the subject!

    • Jane Maynard

      glad you and I are in the same’s so tough!

      what does your environmental engineer husband think about GM crops and environmental impact? just curious.

      and kudos to you for growing what you can in your garden – love that so much! we all should do better in that regard, where we can!

    • We bought a banana tree at Lowe’s yesterday…that will be a new one for us! Just got our first apple crop this week too (we started planting about 4 years ago).
      I will ask him about the GMO and environmental impact…but I do know it is for a variety of reasons that he likes growing our own food.

    • Jane Maynard

      you got a banana tree?!?! you have to keep me posted on how that goes!

      thanks, sara!

  9. 9

    I don’t live in CA, but have been somewhat following this Prop. Both of my children have food allergies(which don’t run in our family). I am concerned about the dramatic rise in food allergies, celiac’s disease, etc., and how GM foods are contributing to these problems. We need to know what we are eating and putting into our bodies.

  10. 10
    Amanda L

    Thanks for the Bittman article, along with the food for thought! I totally get the quandary with Prop 37 (but lucky for me i don’t live in CA anymore so I don’t have to make up my mind). No matter how poorly something is executed, there’s lots of merit to fighting Big Food. It feels like it might actually DO something. And then the problems with the law can be addressed. Or maybe not. And then lots of money has been wasted in the meantime, regardless of whether those issues are resolved. *sigh* It really is very complicated.

    • Jane Maynard

      well put, amanda. it is SO complicated. I suppose that’s life…at least things are moving in the right direction, despite the complications.

  11. 11

    I think that Prop 37 may not be a flawed as it seems. Many of the items mentioned in your post as well as in the comments are the examples of the ‘flaws’ of the proposition in any commercial aired against the proposition. The example of dog food against a steak; really people wonder why dog food should be labeled and not steak. I am hoping my steak is actually meat and not a mixture of meat, grains, preservatives, artificial coloring/flavoring and whatever else is found in dog food. There is research beginning to show a correlation between GM foods, pesticide exposure, and cancer. Europe requires and in many cases bans GM food. I do figure if it gets passed it is a step in the right direction. I am a biochemist and do believe that science can do an amazing amount of good. I just don’t want it messing with my food.

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